One Year Draft Dodger – There Was A Message

I was 18 years old in 1948, had graduated high school and could expect to be drafted for 2 years in the near future. Back then 18 and 19 year olds had an option other than waiting to be drafted. They could enlist in the army for one year, not two, and upon discharge from active duty spend six years in the active reserve. I exercised this option and became, as we were called then, a one year draft dodger. As a result I received a message which can best be explained by briefly recounting my seven year experience.

My one year of active duty was pleasant enough. Reported to the army at their Whitehall Street enlistment center downtown New York City on August 13, 1948 and was bussed to Fort Dix, NJ. I was processed and also took the Army General Classification Tests, AGCT, receiving a very respectable score the underpinning for a little less than boring 12 months of active duty. Because of the score I was able to request various schools and receive approval.

I was moved to Fort Lewis, WA for basic training and my home for the enlistment with an 8 week exception. After basic I had 4 weeks of combat engineer schooling and then I requested truck driving school. After 2 weeks I was set to drive a truck when I noticed a posting that drafting services the Colonel needed a Jeep driver. Sounded like my kind of work and I was accepted. But it turned out to be boring, just too many cigarettes hanging around waiting to drive the Colonel here and there. I then requested truck mechanic school, Fort Ord, CA, my home away from home for 8 weeks.

Returning to Fort Lewis I entered the barracks mid-day, Tuesday I recall, and found a soldier sitting on the floor reading a comic book. Aware that you were not allowed in the barracks during the day I expressed my curiosity. The explanation; he played baseball Monday, Wednesday, Friday and made formation on Saturday. He was off Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Guess who played first base from the end of May when I returned to Fort Lewis until I was discharged on August 12, 1949. So much for the one year active duty.

I was transferred to the active reserve for the next six years. I lived in Rockaway Beach, NY and I was assigned to Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn. When I reported to Fort Hamilton I explained that I lived in Rockaway and Fort Tilden in Rockaway was just minutes from my home. Could I be transferred there which would save a lot of driving time. Within a week I was assigned to an anti-aircraft battery at Tilden. I would be trained as a lineman stringing communication wire. I could hardly wait.